New Berwick, Illinois, a mystical land where witches rule under the watchful eyes of the Dominions.
(Recap from previous chapter)
Jewel used ten year old Russell Sooner to break the moon curse. A pathologist, Charlton (Charlie) Daniels, accidentally tested Russell’s blood sample when the fake sample was discarded. Freaked out by the discovery of the boy’s inhuman blood, Daniels is on his way to the state lab to get a second opinion. This discovery would not only out Russell but would cast a net over the entire werewolf population. Dr. Sally Lorac alerted Jewel. Now the wolves are out to stop the pathologist from taking the sample to the state lab.
Charlton pulled out of the garage onto the quiet street. Up ahead, the caution light had been yellow too long for him to beat the red. He eased up to the light and stopped—his left elbow resting on the black rubber of the opened window. The light changed, and he drove a block, then made a left on Kingston Road. He drove several more blocks and made a right on Moonhawk Drive. Twenty minutes into his journey, his phone rang. He clicked speaker. “Hello,” Charlton said without checking the ID.
“Charlie,” a husky male voice called.
“Ben. I heard you were back. How was your trip?”
"I ... um ... called your office and they said you weren’t coming in today. You’re not sick or anything?”
“Oh, no. I’m taking a blood sample up to the state lab."
"Boy. You're in for a long drive. No wonder you took the whole day."
"Not really. Doctor Lorac told me about this short cut behind Norwick Forest ...”
“Norwick Forest? Doctor Lorac told you that?”
“You sure you understood her correctly? Sally’s lived here all her life. There’s nothing back there except a swamp and some dead trees. Doesn’t take you anywhere.”
“Are you certain?
“I’m positive. That’s why so many folks around here call it Dead Man’s Creek. Check with her again. It’s probably just a miscommunication. Anyway, I’ve got to get to a meeting. But the only way to the state lab from Sheerfield is I-83 North—straight shot.”
"Eighty-three North. Got it. Thanks, Ben.”
“My pleasure. Talk to you soon.”
Charlton, his face now devoid of expression, clicked off and laid the phone aside. Coming to a stop sign, he mashed his brake. While several pedestrians crossed, he sat staring through vague eyes--he flinched when an impatient female hit her horn. He spotted a 7-Eleven a couple of blocks away and drove there and parked. He just sat drumming his fingers on the steering wheel and watching people stroll in and out of the glass doors. He picked up his phone and placed his thumb on Dr. Lorac’s number, but laid it back down. He smoothed a hand over his flaming, red hair and blew his breath out hard. Then, as if someone had pinched his bottom, he jumped forward and started up the car, pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the street—heading for the road Dr. Lorac had suggested.
He endured numerous red lights, stop signs, old folks jaywalking with their metal canes, drivers stopping suddenly without signaling, slow moving farm trucks, sharp curves and deer crossings until he found himself on a dark, silent, long stretch of a road lined with tall trees. He slowed the car to a near crawl, turning his head right and left. There was nothing but blackness beyond the trees, and a stench like dead animal flesh permeated the air.
Something seemed to be pushing him on; perhaps, the hope that Ben had been mistaken. He drove deeper and deeper behind the forest. As he rounded another dirt curve, he noticed a red Dodge Caravan with the hood up, and a very attractive young woman bending over it. The tight Jeans she wore parted her butt cheeks well. Charlton stopped. The woman looked up and waved at him. She pushed her long, blonde hair away from her face and smiled. “Hey there," she said. "I seem to have made a wrong turn, and then the damn thing just cut off on me. Sure could use your help.”
Charlton looked around him before he spoke. He stuck his head out the window. “Looks like I did the same. Ah … made a wrong turn, that is. Didn't you call someone?”
She shook her head. “Phone’s dead.”
“You can use mine.” The blonde beauty just stood there, her green eyes gazing at him. “I can, maybe, give you a ride," he said. "Where are you trying to get to?”
She put a fist on her curvy hip. "Grundy County."
“You really did make a wrong turn.”
“Tell me about it,” she said with a smirk.
Charlton struggled to gather his words. “Actually, I’m not very good at fixing things. I’ll be more than glad to drop you somewhere."
“It’s my dad’s car and he’d have a hell of a fit if I left it out here. Sure wish you’d take a look at it," she said, her green eyes dancing as a long, blonde curl sat S-shaped on one of her full breasts.
Charlton sighed heavily. He looked right, and then left again before checking the side and rear view mirrors. The young beauty's eyes widened when she saw him backing out. “Hey! You’re not leaving me here?”
“I’ll … ah … send someone back for you,” he yelled at her as he turned and tore out of there. Her obscenities echoed above the squeals of his tires as he soared off. After he'd driven about a quarter of a mile, he hit speed dial, then speaker. Dr. Lorac’s phone rang.
“Why the hell did you lie to me?
“Charlie, calm down. What’s happening?”
“I don’t know, and I’m not sticking around long enough to find out.” Charlton looked over at his left view mirror. The red Dodge was gaining on him like a shark after its prey. “Shit!” Dr. Lorac’s voice faded as he tossed the phone and mashed the accelerator.
Rounding a bend, Charlton braked just in time to make a sharp left turn. The wheels screeched loudly like a dog in pain, and dust flew up hitting the windshield, nearly blinding his view. Two hundred feet behind him, the red Dodge swerved around the curve with ease, creating a mini dust storm.
There was a straight patch of road ahead. He was doing eighty, with the red Dodge still in close view. Then another curve, and Charlton braked, but the car swerved out of control. He held the steering wheel, though every vein in his hands was popping up. The car shot across the lane and off the side where the wheels spat gravel until he managed to guide the car back onto the road. He looked at his side view mirror and the red Dodge was right on him. He had a head start, but could he keep it—hold on to it until he was clear of this God forsaken place—clear to see street lights, houses, live animals, people again?
Charlton increased his speed, but couldn’t shake the Dodge. “Damn it!” he growled.
The red Dodge was coming, no--blazing. The two hundred feet became one hundred feet, fifty feet, twenty-five, a few feet, a few inches—then so close like a dog sniffing another dog’s arse. Suddenly, the Dodge fell back, then shot from behind. Charlton swallowed hard, as he was face to face with his pursuer. Side-by-side, the two dragged raced, dust and dirt swirling around both cars. Charlton was eye ball to eye ball with Matthew and Rick, both dressed in black and wearing dark shades—but no green-eyed blonde.
Charlton was leaning forward with both hands tightly on the wheel—his eyes flashing back and forth over at the teen wolves. His breathing was heavy: beads of sweat poured from his forehead, and the blue veins at his temple were pulsating as he watched the red Dodge inch closer to him.
“What do you want?” Charlton screamed at them. Rick, who was in the passenger seat, waved for him to pull over.
“Go to hell!” Charlton yelled, and he soared ahead of the Dodge.
Matthew roared up and rammed him, forcing the car off the road and into the dirt. But Charlton fought the wheel as the car bounced up and down, hitting rocks and animal carcasses. His jaw tightened as he soared back onto the road. He slammed his car into the Dodge, catching Matthew off guard. Matthew swerved, but maintained control. The two cars rammed each other back and forth—whipping through turns like twin cars on a roller coaster track. Another hard ram from the Dodge forced Charlton onto the dirt, but this time, his car rolled into the path of a dark wooded area, missed several trees, and then finally side swiped a huge stump before coming to a halt. Charlton sat dazed for a moment—dust and dead leaves flying all around. He managed to unfasten his seat belt, but the damaged door wouldn’t budge. He kicked it opened and bolted.
Running through those woods was like a blind man stumbling through someone's backyard. Only the sunlight streaming through the top of trees provided any visibility. Panting hard, he stopped and turned, but there was nothing there, nothing chasing him, just the darkness all around—covering him like a ghastly, smelly blanket.
Then--suddenly from beyond the blackness came a sound like something moving fast. He spotted a deep hollow in a giant tree. He hid there and muffled his loud breathing.
New Berwick, Illinois is comprised of four regions: Falcon Haven, Northern and Southern Greyscott Falls, Sheerfield County and Ironforge.
Northern Greyscott Falls:
River Porter....... Main Character
Jewel Porter....... River's wife
Their daughters....Chelsey, Abby, Dria, and Becca
Southern Greyscott Falls:
Dex Porter.........River's brother
Matthew (Matt) Porter... Dex's son
Jan Porter ....Dex's wife and Jewel's cousin/sister-in-law
Raymond Carter.. Dex's neighbor
Debbie Carter... Raymond's mother
Beatrice ....... Jewel's best friend
Kayla Morrison.. Beatrice's niece
Wayne Tilbert....... Sheriff of Sheerfield County
Reece Tilbert....... Wayne's wife/Sheerfield Bank president
Veronica (Ronnie) Tilbert...Wayne daughter/Kayla's BFF
Christopher Tilbert.........Wayne and Reece's son
Christa......................Veronica and Kayla's BFF
Bob Wilson..................Sheerfield County Coroner
Hollie Brewer...............Corina's sister/Sorcerer
New Berwick residents
Art Work: Her Eyes by Diane Azdamar at dianae.cgsociety.org